Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast(Video Game) Review

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast(Video Game) Review

Last updated on August 9th, 2015

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is the third game in the Jedi Knight Series following after Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, it puts players in control of the roguish former Jedi Kyle Katarn. This game is a third person action game that may also be switched into first person. It was released in 2002 for the PC, Macintosh, Nintendo Gamecube, and Xbox. Using weapons such as blasters and high explosives Kyle Katarn works as a mercenary operating after the destruction of the second Death Star and death of Emperor Palpatine. Often hired out for the New Republic which is led by Head of State Mon Mothma, Kyle and his partner Jan Ors are sent out to aid the current government in dealing with the threat that is the Imperial Remnant. Eventually Kyle Katarn will be called into further action and must regain his status as a Jedi Knight so that he may save the New Republic and those he cares about and become the Jedi he was destined to be. Developed by Raven Studios software the game was an attempt at capturing the feel of being a Jedi within the Star Wars universe, the concept that a player can use what powers they want and tackle situations with various tools at their disposal. Overall the game is considered to be one of the highest rated Star Wars games to date though it is a bit lesser known outside of the Star Wars community.


Gameplay

Kyle Katarn facing off against Imperial storm troopers.

Being a First/Third Person shooter with a well designed melee combat system, JK2 is an excellent game with one of the best combat systems seen in a Star Wars game. Players may defeat groups of storm troopers via Force powers, the use of ambush, going in guns blazing, setting up traps, or even through avoiding enemies in using stealth. Not every kind of tactic will work for every situation but there is always more than one route available. The game often rewards exploration with secret item stores which can provide health pick ups, additional ammunition, or even alternative routes which give an advantage. As with most games of its era JK2 uses a health item system without regenerating health, the player may also gain energy shielding which amounts to an extra amount of health essentially. Depending upon the difficulty setting players will only be allowed to have a certain amount of health, at the maximum setting ending up with only half of the maximum. Kyle Katarn throughout the game is given a wide array of weapons such as the E-11 Blaster Rifle, Bryar Pistol, Bowcaster, PLX-2M Portable Missile Launcher, and more. Normally weapons are easy to learn the functionality of since you will typically be taking them from an enemy. If an enemy is found wielding a weapon outside of a lightsaber by killing them you can then take and use said weapon. There is no limit to the number of weapons that you may carry so by all means go ahead and be Kyle Katarn, the Jedi Commando.

After the first few levels of the game Kyle Katarn will return to his Knighthood and regain his signature blue lightsaber(It is called Jedi Knight for a reason). This game has possibly the most enjoyable lightsaber combat seen in a Star Wars game. There are three styles, fast, medium, and slow. Each has its own advantages and position sensitive combo attacks such as spins and backwards thrusts. By pressing a direction the player will swing their weapon in a different was, as such there is a swing for standing still, left, right, forwards, back, and combos that can be done by repeating the types of attacks or by switching up your directions. With this in mind it is possible to fight how you want while trying to use different swings to break through an enemy’s guard. The use of these skills is highly important during duels against Dark Jedi since they will block certain parts of their bodies and need to be killed via out maneuvering them. Parries are possible by making a lightsaber blade touch another blade, because of this there is an incredible amount of depth to the combat. After parrying the opponent will be wide open to attack and can be easily killed. Unlike in many Star Wars games where lightsabers batter an opponent by hitting them multiple times in JK2 these weapons will kill almost anything in one hit. Even the player character can die from one swing, it all depends on how long the lightsaber swing is and how much of it goes through the player. Some swings will also deal extra damage, notably slow swings while easy to dodge but hit hard. The AI in the game are pretty simple and will frequently stand still and fire in your direction, though they will retreat to regroup or even surrender if you have managed to disarm them(Note, removing their arms does not count as a disarm). Lightsabers can block blaster shots but will not work against every type of weapon such as the missile launcher, meaning it still isn’t a catch all weapon that allows you to ignore every other part of the game’s combat.

The Force is a key factor in the game and it is gained(Regained canonically) after the first few levels. Kyle Katarn can push, pull, choke, and mind control people with the Force. As the game goes on your abilities will improve unlocking new powers or better variants of powers you already have. At level one Force Grip will let you choke someone weakly in place but with level three Force Grip you can lift people off the ground and move them about in the air to wherever you wish. It is incredibly fun to mess around with these skills, a favorite tactic of mine has always been to lift someone in the air with Force Grip then use Push to send them flying into the air. Kyle Katarn is not just limited to light side abilities though since he does walk the line, meaning he can use Force Lightning. They can also be used for defensive purposes such as healing in between combat or even pushing away projectiles like missiles. Force Jump is also going to play a major role in combat since in game the player can jump high into the air, off of walls, back flip, and swing their lightsaber at the same time. Utilizing Force Speed with Force Jump can lead to incredible bouts of mobility that can make navigating levels and escaping encounters a piece of cake. All in all the combat seen in game is very spot on, I would list it as one of the most fun Star Wars games to play ever created due to how well it mixes everything. The only real issue in regards to gameplay is that the game takes a bit too long to give you(Back) your lightsaber and Force Powers.

Multiplayer

Kyle Katarn facing off against a Shadow Trooper.

Jedi Knight 2 actually features a multiplayer mode that is not exactly active. While searching for servers normally is incredibly difficult due to the age of the game by using X-fire or other such software that aid in connections between players one can find that there is still a small community for the game. Players can choose from any character model seen in singleplayer or download mods to change their appearance, if another player lacks the mod you will instead just appear as Kyle Katarn to them. Multiple modes are available such as capture the flag, death match, team death match. There are a few modes not entirely typical though, Jedi Master, Capture the Ysalamari, and Duel. In Jedi Master mode players will all be on a team against the Jedi Master whom which can use the max level version of any Force Power. At the same time they are vastly outnumbered, and gain points via killing players while they attempt to kill the Jedi. When the Jedi is killed their lightsaber is dropped and whoever can get to it first is the next Master. Capture the Ysalamari features players in team or free for all style matches similar to CTF with the Ysalamari being the flag. The twist however is that Ysalamari block the Force, thus whoever is holding it may not be harmed by the Force or use it. Finally Duels are set up to allow two players to fight one another in a battle using the Force and lightsabers. Only two people may fight at a time with spectators watching. It is quite enjoyable to play online but there are some minor issues like having your name reset whenever you turn the game off, having to constantly set your character appearance or lightsaber color.

Level Design

The Levels of Jedi Knight 2 are generally quite well done with a few being very confusing due to poor direction. Many of the levels in game are quite long with many different ways to progress. Often vents, doors, or even by using the Force to jump will lead the player to alternate paths. It is common for there to be areas that are high above enemies in the level from which the player can get a height advantage. At the same time some do feel a bit same with many levels taking place inside of highly similar looking buildings or starships. One map is actually reused though only a small portion of it, and it is connected to a much larger part that was not accessible before. Unfortunately this game can also be quite fond of death pits and instant kill traps. Due to the auto-save, save whenever, and quick-save features one can brute force through them. At the same time the game could have been better off without so many instant kill death traps, normally requiring the use of Force Speed to get around. When in heavily open ground the game can be highly difficult without any cover to use or corners to hide around. Encounters can even be set up that start with the enemy characters having such an advantage over the player it is a bit unfair when they are low on explosive weaponry. There is a distinct attempt at points to recreate the imagery seen in the original Trilogy of films and these settings can be quite enjoyable. There is even a boss-like battle in a carbon freezing chamber that presents multiple ledges, elevators, a death pit, as well as platforms to use in the duel.

Two levels in particular though could be considered the worst, Nar Shaddaa and the Jedi Temple. Nar Shaddaa is simply so vast without clear direction, often it can become very difficult to tell which window to jump to, car to land on, or ledge to crawl across. Without a guide it may take hours until the correct path is discovered and even then this can happen multiple times. With snipers that can kill the player in one hit hidden all over the level and minimal cover while moving along walk ways it can be a real nightmare. The Jedi Temple on the other hand is less so deadly and just confusing. Sometimes it can be very hard to tell what it is the player must do to get past a puzzle. This area is essentially puzzle central without any enemies and it really slows down the game. While designed to introduce Force Powers to the player instead it just slows down the experience more before you can cut off storm trooper heads and flip around in the air.

Graphics

Desann(Right) and Tavion(left).

Graphically the game was decent looking for its time but is quite dated by today’s standards. It does appear like graphics were not the focus of the game with them instead working mostly on the levels and combat. Models are passable with the levels looking okay, though nothing is really awe inspiring. More often than not the game goes for the nostalgia factor borrowing imagery from the films instead of creating its own impressive settings and areas. There really isn’t much to this aspect of the game, cut scenes are usually very simplistic with only a few models shown on screen.

Story

JK2 revolves around the story of Kyle Katarn seeking revenge against the Chistori Desann whom which is a former Jedi that now is working with the Imperial Remnant. Desann has teamed up with the Imperial scientist Galak Fyyar, the two have been mining strange crystals using captured New Republic citizens and soldiers for mysterious reasons. During an early mission in the story Jan is captured and killed by Desann and his Dark Jedi apprentice Tavion. Throughout the story Kyle must get to grips with himself fighting the urge to fall to the dark side while trying to save the New Republic from this threat. It is a very simple story with adequate explanations for most of the events in the game. While not ground breaking or incredibly innovative in regards to story telling it does not hold the game back. At no point does the story hold back the gameplay aside from perhaps making the player wait a bit before getting a lightsaber.

Desann ready for combat with his lightsaber.

Characters

Kyle Katarn is quite a gem to have in the game, unlike other Jedi seen in much of Star Wars Kyle is quite sarcastic often taunting others or outright insulting them. He’s a joy to have on screen and normally when he should be mentioning a righteous path he’s just a bit too busy being rude to whoever stands before him. Jan Ors is also quite enjoyable sharing many traits with Kyle while being a bit friendlier towards those around them. Often she likes to think about retiring from their line of work and is an experienced woman quite capable in combat. Desann is quite enjoyable as a main antagonist, unlike the typical angry or overly evil Dark Jedi/Sith seen in many stories Desann is a lot more reserved. During conversations he often waits for the right moment to speak, calculating his moves and taking time to consider what he is doing. Despite this he is a massive intimidating figure that favors the raw power of the dark side of the Force. Galak Fyyar is quite under-used in the story with his position being barely explained especially for a deuteragonist. He is simply the typical Imperial Officer without much else to him other than that he is interested in the Force. Man characters from other parts of the cannon do appear in this game, such as Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian, and Mon Mothma. Each are treated very well with Luke and Lando acting as fun and helpful companions in the game. Tavion is a decent if under utilized tritagonist, she takes up the more standard Dark Jedi role focusing upon passion and inflicting pain upon others. A few lesser characters pop up such as crime lords and Imperial officers but there is little to them.

Canon

It should be noted that in this game there are no errors in regards to canon, at least none that I’ve ever managed to find. Taking place in the year 12 ABY, due to Katarn’s apparent attitudes and position in the galaxy the game takes place following the light side ending of Jedi Knight: Dark Forces. This would mean the light side ending is canon. Characters from other series do appear such as Luke Skywalker but everyone is depicted quite accurately. Star Destroyers are quite large, Yavin IV features a Jedi Temple which has been built to aid in the restoration of the Jedi Order. Everything appears to be right though it is possible to kill some named characters that do not have to be killed to progress. It is currently unknown if any of them live such as the Chiss Bartender, though they likely will never appear in another series. While previous games used live action cutscenes to tell the story JK2 shifts over to using the in-game models. As such Kyle’s voice has changed, at the same time he simply sounds a bit older and does not sound like a completely different person.

Summary

Kyle Katarn faces off against Desann.

Essentially Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast is the ultimate Jedi experience. If that is not interesting to you then the game might not be for you. With solid mechanics and enjoyable gameplay even those who are not into Star Wars can easily enjoy the game. Thanks to the variety combat will often feel fresh even to the end of the game since the player can switch between styles whenever they see fit. There are negative aspects to the game such as the dated graphics but they mostly do not hurt the game in any way. Only the levels of Nar Shaddaa and the Jedi Temple can really be dull and slow down the game in very frustrating ways. To Star Wars fans it is clearly one of the best available games in the franchise and is a recommendation to get it. If you enjoy action games there is a chance this will become your favorite Star Wars game.

Objective Rating

7/10, Good, the game is above average and I would recommend giving it a shot.
+Exceptional Combat
+Generally Good Level Design
+Enjoyable Multiplayer Modes
-Dated Graphics
-Generic Story
-Two Bad Levels

Personal Rating

9/10, if you are a Star Wars fan it is a must try.
+Exceptional Combat
+Kyle Katarn Is In It
+Follows The Canon
+Has The Best Lightsaber Wielding Experience of Any Game
-Nothing Is Perfect


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8 comments on “Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast(Video Game) Review”

  1. AnAsalBeag says:

    That game saved my sanity when my video card died a few years ago and it was about the only game i could run on my crappy back up card. Didn’t give 2 hoots that the gfx looked horrible at the time, awesome game and major fun when played at lans. We still break it out every now and then at lans.

    1. Tolvo says:

      That sounds like an amazing time, I’ve never gotten to play this LAN and I’d absolutely love to with a group of people. It is also quite nice how the low graphic requirements do mean this game can pretty much run on any machine. though my current laptop doesn’t even have a video card so I’m not able to dip in and play it anymore unfortunately.

      1. AnAsalBeag says:

        Nothing like running around the platforms in the death star map and force pushing everyone of the ledges to their deaths.

  2. Rooke says:

    Love Jedi Outcast, sucha awesome game. Tho in my opinion Jedi Knight II is better 😉
    But dosent Dark Forces to MS-DOS count into the Jedi Knight saga, it does have Kyle Katarn as the main protagonist.

    1. Tolvo says:

      Jedi Knight II is Jedi Outcast, do you mean Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II? Or do you mean Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy? Also, Mysteries of the Sith is not its own game and is an expansion for Dark Forces II, so it is not considered its own game in the series making Jedi Outcast the third.

      1. Rooke says:

        I meant Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, my bad 😛 I know about the Mysteries of the Sith. but the Dark Forces i mean is the 1995 game and if its connected to the series. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Wars:_Dark_Forces )

        1. Tolvo says:

          Dark Forces is the first, Dark Forces II is the second, Jedi Outcast is the third, Jedi Academy is the fourth.

          Yes it does tie in, perhaps a reason for me to not comment when I’m tired. I thought you meant in regards to me listing Jedi Outcast as the third in the series which it is. Dark Forces, the original, is part of this series and canon.

  3. Ahhotep1 says:

    I’m not a Star Wars fan but a friend is very much so. I had him read your review.

    Nicely done Tolvo! Thanks for a good write up, according to him…since I’m totally without an informed opinion or experience with the Star Wars meta. He is pleased and that says a lot! 😀

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